Reinhardt will begin a new football rivalry this season after a game against FCS Kennesaw State was added to this year’s schedule.
The schools, which are separated by fewer than 30 miles, will meet at Kennesaw State Sept. 28, for the Eagles first non-NAIA game since it played Mercer in 2014.
“It’s a tremendous challenge for our program and our kids,” Reinhardt coach James Miller said. “It’s something they’ll be excited about. It can bring a little bit of juice to the schedule, and I think it’s great for both communities. The schools are so close together. It just brings a little bit of excitement to Waleska and Kennesaw.”
The game will also be a good test to see how far Reinhardt has come in its short relatively short history.
As Reinhardt has become a regular in the NAIA playoffs in just six seasons, the Owls have become a contender in the FCS just four years, and both teams have gotten there relying on a running game that has ranked at or near the top of their respective divisions each year.
“Kennesaw State is a perennial power,” Miller said. “Coach (Brian) Bohannon does a great job. They’re physical on both sides of the ball. They have a physical brand of football. We try to model ourselves after them, even though we run different systems. I have a tremendous amount of respect for their coaching staff on both sides of the ball.”
Despite the proximity of the schools and the similar style of players they look for, Miller said he does not often find himself recruiting against Kennesaw State.
As a FCS program, the Owls have more to offer potential recruits, but there will be an added element with the familiarity of the players on two teams that recruit Georgia heavily.
“We’re after the same kids sometimes, but they can offer some stuff we really can’t,” Miller said. “We don’t compete against them really a whole lot for kids, especially the ones they really want. I think the kids know each other, though. We both recruit Georgia pretty heavily, so I think it’s exciting for the kids.”
While it will not be a conference game for Reinhardt, the result could still have an effect on their playoff chances.
If the Eagles are looking for an at-large bid at the end of the season, the game will count the same as any other toward the final rankings, and Miller said his team will go into the game looking to pull off the upset.
“We played in these games when I was at Virginia Tech against lower divisions,” he said. “ We’re treating it just like any other game. We’re going to go out there, put our best Reinhardt football on the field and see what happens. We’re going to throw Reinhardt out there, put it all on the table and see where we stand at the end of it. If we can do the little things right, you never know. We’re going in to win.”